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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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January 12, 2009 2:46 PM

If We Have To Subsidize Broadband Based On Speed Here's How To Do It

So earlier today I laid out the challenges of trying to subsidize broadband based on speed and why I don't think it's the right way to go. But being the pragmatist that I am I realize that Congress's aversion to "picking a technology" may mean speed is what we have to work with.

To that end, if we're going to subsidize broadband based on speeds, here are the key things we should be requiring:

- No less than 100Mbps today scalable to 1Gbps tomorrow.
Anything less than 100Mbps is insufficient. How can we say 25 or 50 is OK when our global competitors are setting 100Mbps as the baseline? And to not require infrastructure be easily scalable to 1Gbps and beyond is irresponsible as we don't want to build highways too small to carry the bandwidth we'll all be demanding within the next ten years. If we continually subsidize broadband with only enough capacity for today and not tomorrow, then we'll always be playing catch up with the rest of the world.

- All speeds must be symmetrical.
I'm still flabbergasted that we're even considering subsidizing broadband that isn't symmetrical. Almost the entire last wave of online innovation has come as a result of having more upstream capacity, where users can contribute as much as they consume. And think about this from an economics point of view: what good is an economy made entirely of consumers? Do we want to be always importing and never exporting? That's what having upstream capacity means: empowering our creative class to be producing and delivering goods more efficiently into the digital economy.

- Require some level of guaranteed access and/or reliability.
We can't continue to allow some broadband providers to advertise one speed but deliver another. If we do then even if we demanded 100Mbps symmetrical that number would be illusory as no one would be getting those speeds. In fact, how can we mandate speeds at all without assuring that consumers actually realize them? Also important to consider is that if we want more people using and relying upon broadband, then reliability has to be as important as speed. And this reliability ties into the need for some guarantee minimum level of access that broadband providers would have to share alongside their advertised maximums. This would mean either that your speed would never drop below a certain level and/or that if it did you wouldn't have to pay for service.

These are just three simple principles that any speed-based broadband stimulus package must abide by, otherwise we're basically saying that we're fine lagging behind the rest of the world, that we shouldn't set goals to be the best, that if we can just eke into the top ten in the international broadband rankings that that will be good enough, that it's more important to protect the short-term interests of private providers than to insure the long-term health of our country's economy.

I acknowledge that these are lofty goals, but I think America deserves nothing but the best, and that if we work together we can accomplish these goals and beyond.

I know some say we don't need this much speed, but I'm willing to argue that point with anyone and most everyone who feels this way is thinking about what's best for their company's bottom line and not for the country's future.

And I agree that in areas without broadband today something is better than nothing, but that doesn't mean we should lose sight of the long-term especially if we're talking about subsidizing infrastructure that's likely to be in place for decades to come.

So it's simple: if we want to subsidize broadband based on speed we should require no less than a reliable, symmetrical 100Mbps pipe to every home.

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